The Night Walker (1964)


(director: William Castle; screenwriter: Robert Bloch; cinematographer: Harold E. Stein; editor: Edwin H. Bryant; music: Vic Mizzy; cast: Barbara Stanwyck (Irene Trent), Robert Taylor (Barry Moreland), Hayden Roarke (Howard Trent), Lloyd Bochner (George Fuller), Judith Meredith (Joyce Holliday), Rochelle Hudson (Hilda); Runtime: 86; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: William Castle; Universal Studios Home Entertainment-VHS; 1964)

“Limp Psycho-like copycat thriller.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

William Castle(“The Tingler”/”House on Haunted Hill”/”13 Ghosts”) directs this limp Psycho-like copycat thriller, that’s weakly written by the novelist Robert Bloch (he wrote Psycho). It also is done in by its cheesy special effects, its many plot holes and that the viewer is inundated to the point of annoyance by the heroine’s constant shrieks.

The 57-year-old Barbara Stanwyck, in her last theatrical appearance, co-stars with her real-life 53-year-old husband of eleven years, Robert Taylor, whom she divorced before filming. They previously, before their marriage, made two films together.

In the murky film, filled with many plot twists, Ms. Stanwyck plays a frightened widow, Irene Trent, who screams a lot because she’s haunted by a recurring nightmare of a mysterious lover she reaches out for. Irene, who only wants to get a good night’s sleep, decides to divorce her control freak, electronics-wizard, ugly, blind, millionaire husband, Howard Trent (Hayden Roarke), but he’s suddenly killed in a suspicious lab explosion. We subsequently learn through Barry Moreland (Robert Taylor), her husband’s lawyer, that the mystery man of her dreams is a private eye, George Fuller (Lloyd Bochner), someone her husband hired to follow her. We also learn that Moreland was the culprit behind the lab explosion, as he confesses to Irene he did it because he changed the will so he inherits his client’s fortune after he tricked the blind man into signing it. It turns out that Fuller was in on the scheme with Moreland, but has fallen for Irene, enough to kill his beautician wife (Judith Meredith) so he can pursue her. Fuller also prevents Moreland from killing Irene. The two unscrupulous men fight it out for survival.

For those looking for the film’s pros: the opening animated montage is amusing and the wedding ceremony taking place in a deserted chapel filled with mannequins is chilling.

But in the end the cons win out, as this manipulative film becomes a bore and is about as clear as a mud bath.